|Little in his own eyes--and everyone|
else's--Paul put his confidence in the
Christ who called him.
What makes the difference?
I think we find the secret in today's Gospel: the call of Levi. Jesus didn't just call Levi; he used the occasion to describe his own vocation. "I did not come to call the righteous, but sinners." Saul of Tarsus cheerfully recognized himself in this number: "Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners; of these I am foremost" (1 Tim. 1:15). And it seems that every time Paul experienced his littleness, he reaffirmed his confidence in the call of God:
- "Although I am less than the least of all the the holy ones, this grace was given me: to preach to the Gentiles the boundless riches of Christ" (Eph. 3:8).
- "I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, that the power of Christ may rest on me" (2 Cor. 12: 9).
- "I am the least of the apostles and do not even deserve to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God. But by the grace of God I am what I am, and his grace to me was not without effect" (1 Cor 15:9-10).
Failure--no matter in what--is an extremely difficult thing to accept with peace. Sickness, accident, death: all these are patently beyond our control. But failure…that's where self-reproach has free reign.
Paul shows us a great strategy for confronting the temptation to dwell on failure. He uses his own experiences (and, yes, Paul the Apostles knew failure from the inside: read 2 Cor. 12 for a list) as a trampoline that allows him to spring even higher in recognizing the grace of God in him. Anytime someone would say, "Paul," he would respond, "Yes, but Christ!"
The Responsorial Psalm gave me a good way to turn all of this into prayer; see how the Psalmist, too, referred every success to God!